JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars might have lost their No. 1 receiver for the season.
Marqise Lee, who led the team in receptions in 2017, injured his left knee in a 17-6 victory against Atlanta in the preseason Saturday night and could be out for the year.
Lee was carted off the field in the first quarter after Falcons cornerback Damontae Kazee twisted his leg making a tackle. Lee fumbled on the play, but it was overturned because Kazee was flagged for tackling with his helmet.
Teammates and coaches offered well-wishes to Lee as he left the field. Nonetheless, it was the kind of preseason injury that leaves players, coaches and fans shaking their heads.
It also reaffirmed Falcons coach Dan Quinn’s decision to rest two of his biggest offensive stars, receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman.
Lee had 56 catches for 702 yards and three touchdowns last season. He signed a four-year, $34 million contract in March that included $16.5 million guaranteed.
A second-round draft pick from USC in 2014, Lee has 171 catches for 2,166 yards and eight touchdowns. He missed games because of various injuries in three of his four seasons.
If Lee misses extended time in 2018, the Jaguars would rely on second-year pros Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook, one-year rental Donte Moncrief, and rookie DJ Chark to pick up the slack.
Jacksonville wants to run the ball and play stout defense, an old-school philosophy that got the team to the AFC championship game last season. That style helped the Jags control the first half against Atlanta, although they only led 10-6 on the scoreboard.
Coach Doug Marrone’s team outgained the Falcons 236-96 in the opening 30 minutes.
Matt Ryan completed 5 of 12 passes for 57 yards. Tevin Coleman ran seven times for 38 yards, with 22 of those coming on one scamper.
Leonard Fournette carried 10 times for 57 yards and a touchdown for Jacksonville. Fournette’s 21-yard run in the second quarter was the only traditional touchdown of the night.
The Jags scored again in the fourth, when backup quarterback Cody Kessler fumbled a snap, picked up the loose ball and bulldozed his way across the goal line .
Blake Bortles played into the third quarter and finished 17 of 23 for 204 yards. But he also threw two interceptions, one on a tipped ball and another on a pass that sailed wide of a receiver.
Jaguars All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey and Pro Bowl linebacker Telvin Smith remained in the locker room during the national anthem. Smith has skipped the anthem in each of the team’s three preseason games. Ramsey was suspended for last week’s exhibition at Minnesota, not for anything related to the anthem.
Falcons placekicker Matt Bryant made his preseason debut after sitting out the first two games with an undisclosed injury. The 43-year-old Bryant drilled a 47-yard field goal to cap the opening drive and later added a 33-yarder.
The Jaguars had two players make their preseason debut. 2017 All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell (calf) and defensive lineman Taven Bryan (abdomen), a first-round pick from Florida, missed the first two exhibitions. Bryan’s best play was batting down a pass in the closing minutes.
Receiver Marvin Hall, guard Ben Garland, cornerback Desmond Trufant, safety Ricardo Allen and linebacker Deion Jones sat out for Atlanta with minor injuries.
The Jaguars were without six players: cornerback A.J. Bouye (illness), center Brandon Linder (knee), safety Ronnie Harrison (hamstring), linebacker Donald Payne (hip), defensive tackle Eli Ankou (knee) and defensive end Dawuane Smoot (foot).
Atlanta hosts Miami to end the preseason Thursday.
Jacksonville plays at Tampa Bay on Thursday.